Interview with Steven T. Helt, writer for Cross Of Fire Saga Adventure Path

Steven T. Helt is Paizo’s RPG Superstar for 2013 and the project coordinator and a writer for Cross Of Fire Saga Adventure Path for the Pathfinder RPG.  Steven took a few minutes of his time to answer some questions about his Kickstarter.

 Thank you Steven for taking the time to answer a few questions.

Thanks, Ron. I’m grateful for the chance to talk about this project. It has been a fun experience….if a little creepy.

Tell us a little about yourself and your gaming experience, Steven.

I played my first session of AD&D back in 5th grade. A friend’s brother ran us through Queen of the Demonweb Pits. We were massacred but I was hooked. I started designing adventures and running my own scenarios in middle school, but never thought of it as more than a hobby until my mid 30s. I won the Iron GM world championship twice and really got a taste for writing and design as I improved my game behind the screen. I’ve been playing and running RPGs for 32 years.

Since I won RPG Superstar in 2013, I have put together a writing group of fantastic design minds. We’re working to build a reputation as the guys who design things players and GMs salivate over. Fortunately, the publishers we’ve worked with have said very pleasant things and we are already scheduled for a lot of releases with different companies over the next couple of years.

I pitched an offer to develop the Cross of Fire Saga Adventure Path for Louis, crafted the plot from his framework, and now we have a really excellent cast finishing their drafts so our backers know they have already-finished adventures waiting for them when the KS campaign concludes.

How did the Cross Of Fire Saga come about and could you give us a brief description of the Adventure Path?

Louis asked us to write each of the adventures just after we committed to a few other large projects. To make sure he still got what he needed on time, I offered to join the project as author/developer and find him authors with known names who could pick up the writing task that the Four Horsemen couldn’t commit to. Of course, Pestilence is superhuman, so he signed on for a full adventure by himself. But we also got Victoria Jaczko (RPG Superstar 2014), Scott Fernandez (Paizo contributor and Superstar finalist), Jeff Lee, who has designed for several companies, and our third Horseman Dan Dillon. Dan is a crucail addition for the CoF backers becuase when it comes to traps and adventure inspired by dangerous old-school games, Dan is…well….vicious.

Cross of Fire is the first adventure path for the larger Obsidian Apocalypse setting templates. In Jeff Lee’s intro adventure, the players are transported to Abaddon—a harsh realm of post-apocalyptic horror. Their best chance to get home is to follow the lead of a vagabond mystic—someone the PCs can’t fully trust, but at the same time is obviously motivated to help them. Travel in Abaddon is hard, even for high level characters, so across the hard terrain and harder people of the land, the PCs work to locate the missing elements they need to unite in the saga’s conclusion in order to return home. Unfortunately, they have enemies that seek to manipulate them and at any given time their allies aren’t much better. Cross of Fire is gritty and violent and tells a unique horror story the whole way through.

The plot for the saga is something I am really proud of. We’re big fans of turning tropes on their heads, so you can’t take anything for granted. We also have a knack for breathing life into the Maguffin so everything has a detailed story and purpose. The things you need to achieve victory in the Cross of Fire finale have a life of their own and are as dangerous to the PCs as they are to the PCs’ nemesis.

What is it about the Ravenloft and Dark Sun settings that inspired the setting? And what about Abaddon do you think will pull players in?  What makes it unique?

For me, those two settings had defining art and a very specific feel. I think what’s great about working with Louis is you know you’re going to get quality art. The setting material for Obsidian Apocalypse is built around templates, so you can actually sort of choose the post-poc campaign your group wants. Maybe you want a setting where undeath spreads across the world. Obsidian Apocalypse gives you material to focus the horror in that direction. In the Cross of Fire adventures, we’ve blended elements of Lovecraftian horror from beyond, wickedly powerful undead, and the unparalleled cruelty of mortal races pushed to the brink for survival. Some of the most amazing moments in this saga come from less supernatural threats. Just communities very low on hope and trust, and already pushed well past the point of showing charity to strangers.

Great settings have a certain voice but also have some flexibility in that voice, and I think Raveloft was like that and carries into Abaddon for Pathfinder players.

What do you see for the future of Cross Of Fire Saga

Obviously that’s in the hands of Louis and the backers. I will say this: Cross of Fire deserves to be backed at a very high level. It’s not very often that you see a group of designers include two RPG Superstars, a Superstar finalist, and three Iron GMs. The authors of these adventures haven’t been afraid to tackle some difficult material and have honestly knocked it out of the park. If you want to see more adventures designed by teams of well-known freelancers, this is the Kickstarter campaign that will make that happen.

One other thing: the Four Horsemen have always pledged a little extra free content for everything we write. Backers of Cross of Fire will get more options, maybe even another adventure, if they fund us at a higher level, and we won’t charge Louis or the backers at all for that extra content. Give us your trust, and we will give you an adventure path you will never forget.

Thanks, Steven T. Helt, for you time.  Cross Of Fire Saga Kickstarter is opens this Wednesday, 10/1/14.  Please check it out and back it.